People with disabilities often face significant barriers to employment, resulting in poorer labor force participation, higher unemployment rates, and lower wages compared to non-disabled workers.
In a new review, published in the Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, researchers from Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire, Institute on Disability (UNH-IOD) detail the positive findings of the 2015 Kessler Foundation National Employment and Disability Survey (KFNEDS).
The survey reveals how Americans with disabilities are dealing with these issues and overcoming barriers to employment. The findings show that disabled people are actively engaging in job preparation and job search activities, and successfully negotiating barriers at work.
“Approximately 69 percent of those surveyed are striving to work, which is defined as working, actively preparing for employment, searching for jobs, seeking more hours, or overcoming barriers to finding and maintaining employment” said Elaine Katz, MS, CCC-SLP, of Kessler Foundation and senior vice president of grants and communications at Kessler Foundation.
“By focusing on the successful outcomes of jobseekers and employees with disabilities, rather than the barriers, we are reframing the discourse and adding to the growing body of knowledge on best employment practices.”
According to the researchers, identifying the strategies and resources required to help sustain disabled workers in paid employment is the first step toward increasing the participation of this population in the workforce.
Based on the findings, a substantial percentage of employees reported experiencing — and overcoming — obstacles to finding and maintaining employment, including insufficient education or training, negative attitudes of supervisors and coworkers, inaccurate assumptions on ability, pay disparity, and lack of transportation.
Over 42% of survey respondents were currently working, with 60.7% of those working more than 40 hours a week. Other findings showed that approximately 50% of the respondents used workplace accommodations and were satisfied with their jobs, and nearly 90% felt accepted in their workplace.
“This review highlights the strategies people with disabilities use to search for work and navigate barriers,a topic largely overlooked in contemporary disability and employment research,” said John O’Neill, Ph.D., director of disability and employment research at Kessler Foundation.
“Our hope is that this information will aid the development of targeted policies and programs that foster long-term increases in workforce participation among Americans with disabilities.”
Further research exploring the effectiveness of practices that employers often use to recruit, hire, train, and retain people with disabilities in their organizations, from the unique perspective of supervisors of employees with and without disabilities, is presented in the 2017 Kessler Foundation National Employment and Disability Survey: Supervisor Perspectives.
Source: Kessler Foundation